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Blatter 'shocked' at US prosecutor's remarks

Re-elected FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said he is shocked at remarks made about football's world body by the US Attorney General. He also suggested a political motive behind a US corruption probe.

Blatter told Swiss French-language broadcaster RTS on Saturday that US Attorney General Loretta Lynch had jumped the gun with comments in which she spoke of "rampant, systemic and deep-rooted" corruption in world football.

"I was shocked by what she said," Blatter said.

"As a president I would never make a statement about another organization without knowing."

His remarks come as US officials say more indictments are likely in their corruption probe into the football world body, which has already seen seven FIFA officials detained on accusations of racketeering, money laundering and fraud.

'Suspicious timing'

The 79-year-old Blatter said it was suspicious that the dawn raids in Zurich in which the officials were arrested came just two days before the vote in which he was re-elected for a fifth four-year term and suggested that the US was acting out of revenge.

"There are signs which cannot be mistaken: the Americans were candidates for the 2022 World Cup and they lost," he said, adding: "I'm not certain, but it doesn't smell good."

He also intimated that the American investigation could be politically motivated, saying that the United States was a main sponsor of Jordan, the home country of his challenger for the position of president, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.

Prince Ali withdrew from Friday's election after the first round, despite having the backing of UEFA, the European football body.

US authorities have so far indicted 14 people, including the seven detained in Zurich, on charges related to bribes worth $150 million (137.5 million euros) for tournament television rights. Those detained include two FIFA vice presidents and a recently elected member of the FIFA executive committee.

Russian backing

Russian President Vladimir Putin has meanwhile congratulated Blatter on his re-election, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

"Putin expressed certainty that Blatter's experience, professionalism and high level of authority will further allow him to spread the geographical reach and popularity of football," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

Russia, which is due to host the next football World Cup in 2018, has described the American investigation as a ploy to have the tournament scrapped over the tensions in Ukraine, where Moscow is accused of backing pro-Russia rebels in a bloody insurgency.

Swiss investigators are currently carrying out a separate probe into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 tournament to Russia and the 2022 edition to Qatar.

tj/jil (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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